National Hurricane Museum and Science Center

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National Hurricane Museum and Science Center

 

LAKE CHARLES, LA | MASTER PLANNING COMPLETED 2014

Unfortunately, hurricanes appear to be a growth industry.

Fortunately, the National Hurricane Museum and Science Center is on its way to becoming an incredible education resource for all things related to these devastating storms.

 

The Visitor Experience

The goal for the National Hurricane Museum and Science Center’s visitor experience is as big and powerful as its subject matter—to educate and sufficiently prepare the general public for hurricanes.

 
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The institution will be an active agent for public education, filling a much-needed role to engage the public and arm individuals and communities with both knowledge and action plans.

The experience will give visitors a deeper understanding of how people, hurricanes, and the wetlands environment interact.

The themes and components of the exhibits were carefully developed to meet each of the institution’s goals and directives in a holistic, informative, and personal way that engages visitors through learning—creating an impactful, exciting experience.

 
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Public Responsibility

The central ideas for the National Hurricane Museum and Science Center were derived from discussions with weather professionals and scientists: Everything is interconnected, and with increased knowledge comes responsibility.

According to their stated mission, visitors to the museum should come away with a clear understanding of hurricanes:

  • How we know about them

  • How we can predict them

  • How to recover from them

  • How we can mitigate their impact on urban and natural environments

The stories are framed within the Cajun culture to illustrate how living with hurricanes has created a heritage of resilience.

 
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Hurricane Stories

Visitors can find answers to hurricane questions big and small in “Hurricane Stories,” where a ghostly storekeeper regales them with stories of hurricanes gone by.

The shelves use video to tell tales of preparation, survival, and recovery. Kids are entertained with packaged goods that come alive to tell age-appropriate stories and give advice on preparedness.

All the storytelling is done in an authentic Louisiana style, with the unique warmth and charm of “Cajun Country” infused in every experience.

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Accumulated Understanding

Christopher Columbus, author of the first recorded hurricane report, introduces visitors to an immersive 4D experience that safely conveys to visitors the true power of hurricanes—and demonstrates how far we’ve come in understanding them.

 

As visitors progress on a moving walkway through each environment, they see how each discovery built on the one before it, ultimately shaping the way we see hurricanes today.

To symbolize humanity’s journey from darkness to the light of understanding, each gallery is just a little bit brighter than the last.

 

Looking Ahead

Predicting hurricanes is as complicated as it is critical. Here visitors travel through time from the earliest prediction methodologies to today’s cutting-edge satellites.

 
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Visitors get the chance to take a ride on a simulated hurricane hunter flight.

Sitting in the cockpit, they fly into the eye of the storm and back out again. Seats shake as breathtaking imagery soars by, engaging all the senses and blurring the boundary between education and experience.

 
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In the Reporting Live! booth, visitors get to be storm reporters, reading news reports into the camera while a ferocious gale blows.

 

Understanding Complexity

As our understanding of hurricanes increases, our fear is replaced by intelligent action. In this section, the science of hurricanes is explored in ways that are accessible, understandable, and memorable.

 
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Visitors learn the scientific principles of hurricanes at an interactive station featuring a holographic sphere.

 
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In “Birth of a Hurricane,” visitors manipulate variables that determine the strength of hurricane in a game like air hockey.

 
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A giant surge wall allows visitors to choose a famous hurricane, and get a visual understanding of its devastating height.

 

Preparedness

Visitors may think they know how to prepare for a hurricane, but they will leave the exhibit with an entirely new understanding of what it takes, in exceptionally practical terms, to be truly prepared for life in hurricane country.

 

PrepMart

Similar in look to a Home Depot, PrepMart provides hurricane preparation supplies.

At this simulated general store, kids race the clock to fill their shopping carts. To make it even more exciting, items in the store jump around on the shelves and shout hints: “Hey, kid, you use those (nails) and you can kiss your roof good-bye!” The cash register animatedly tells them their chances of survival based on their choices.

The lesson: preparation requires intelligent choices.

 
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Understanding Wetlands

The National Hurricane Museum and Science Center is in the heart of America’s wetland, and here, visitors learn about the ever-changing nature of the nation’s wetlands, and why they are so important to everything from minimizing hurricane damage to maximizing economic output.

 

Visitors are greeted by a map of U.S. wetlands, and then move to an interactive than enables them to see how flora and fauna in wetlands changes over time, as well as a 3D “nutrient map,” which illustrates the complex effervescence of life found in this small part of the planet.

 
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Environmental Responsibilities

The second half of the Wetlands exhibit experiences focuses on man’s stewardship and responsibility to this precious and disappearing national resource. It includes a “Honey I Shrunk the Visitors” experience and a boat ride out into actual wetlands.

 

This outdoor exploration brings visitors down to insect size in order to uncover the world teaming with life just underneath the surface of everyday life in the Louisiana wetlands, shown in progressive stages of restoration.

In addition to the fantasy outdoors, visitors can take a virtual glass-bottom boat out to see real wetlands up close. They learn about the habitats along the way through the glass bottom boat’s floor and from boat guides who will lead the tour.

 
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The Big Show

This animatronic puppet show features various Cajun and wetlands characters interacting with official-type characters—such as insurance agents and FEMA workers—all in anticipation of Big Blow, who comes in and wreaks havoc on the town.

After seeing the Big Show a first time, visitors get to orchestrate the show a second time.

Learning comes when the audience is asked to adjust the environment from the first show to see if they can achieve better outcomes in the second.

 
Photo courtesy of  NASA

Photo courtesy of NASA

In 2017 the City of Lake Charles voted against funding the National Hurricane Museum and Science Center. Despite having already secured substantial funding, the project was unable to move forward without the city’s support.

The need for an institution focused on hurricane-related education remains unfulfilled.